Indoor nook

Female student studies in Gerdin Building window nook

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Ignoring the swirling snowflakes outside her window, Morgan Steiner, a sophomore in supply chain management and international business, studies in a quiet nook on the east side of the Gerdin Building Tuesday afternoon. Temperatures might say early March, but there are just three weeks remaining in the semester before final exams begin April 30.

Provost: Central budget cuts will ease impact on academic programs

In remarks at the April 3 Faculty Senate meeting, senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert said his office is working to cushion academic programs from the blow of midyear budget cuts. Iowa State likely will shoulder $5.4 million of the $10.9 million being trimmed from the state Board of Regents' legislative appropriations for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

In a March 30 memo, President Wendy Wintersteen said about three-quarters of that reduction will come from central funds and the rest would be distributed across the university. Wickert said his office is finalizing a plan for the academic affairs portion of the budget reversion.

"I'm working with my team to see how much of that we can absorb centrally within my office," he said. "My goal would be to have as little of our share go to the academic colleges and departments as possible."

Wickert said tuition proposals will be introduced at the April 12 regents meeting. Iowa State's plan includes a 3.8 percent increase for undergraduate resident students and a 4 percent increase for nonresident undergraduate and all graduate students. He said both new and raised differential tuition rates also will be proposed for "majors that have high-touch, high-level laboratory or experiential learning components."

"Raising tuition is not something we do lightly," Wickert said. "It's not something that we want to do, but it's something we need to do to sustain the quality of our academic programs here at the university, and to offset several years of state budget reductions."

Academic programs

In other senate business, three proposed academic programs earned unanimous approval, including:

  • A bachelor of science in cybersecurity engineering in the electrical and computer engineering department
  • An illustration minor, a 15-credit program in Design's art and visual culture department
  • An undergraduate certificate in actuarial science, a 23-credit (plus 30-31 prerequisite courses) program shared by the finance, math and statistics departments

In new business, a proposed graduate certificate in meat science was introduced. The animal science would offer a 12-credit online-only program. A Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) also was proposed, offered by the School of Education. The professional degree is intended for educational practitioners -- such as school district superintendents and community college leaders -- and different from the scholarly research focus of the school's existing Ph.D. program in education.

"The goals of the degrees are different and there's a growing need in the state of Iowa for people with this degree," said Tim Bigelow, chair of the academic affairs council.

Military accommodations

Excused absences for students with veteran and military service demands will broaden with proposed Faculty Handbook changes. The revised language allows for service-related medical appointments and other short-notice orders and assignments.

"Military and veterans have a lot of unique responsibilities and obligations that may require them to miss class," Bigelow said. "Or current policy excludes some of these issues that are facing them."

Senators will vote on the proposed changes at their April 17 meeting.

Amendments expected for NTE faculty proposal

Senators continued their discussion of proposed changes for nontenure-eligible (NTE) -- or "term" -- faculty. The changes stemmed from recommendations developed by a 2016 senate task force.

"We've been grinding on this for a while, and I think we can see the goal line," senate president Tim Day said. "We've made a lot of progress. There's a large body of underlying stuff that we have largely come to a consensus on."

In an effort to gauge agreement on possible amendments to proposed changes, Day led discussion on three issues:

  • Elimination of the assistant/associate titles in the proposed professor of practice track
  • Retention of lecturer titles
  • Clarification of research professor requirements

"These are the three areas where we saw the most amendments come to us," Day said.

"What I hope to do is get some coalesced amendments, start to distribute them and say 'these are what they're going to look like,'" Day said. "You're going to have a chance to vote for or against those amendments, and then you're going to have a chance to vote for or against the parent proposal as amended or as adopted. This is discussion to get us there."

Other business

  • Senators approved Faculty Handbook language revisions for interim actions in misconduct complaints (section and the definition for working days (section 2.9.1)
  • Three executive board seats were filled: Andrea Wheeler (architecture), academic affairs council chair; Brett Sponseller (veterinary clinical sciences), governance council chair; Annmarie Butler (philosophy and religious studies), secretary
  • Wickert said 81 promotion and tenure approvals will go before the regents at their April 12 meeting

Tuition increases, faculty promotions go to regents next week

Tuition increases for next year and faculty promotion and tenure requests are on the agenda when the state Board of Regents meets April 11-12 at the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs. Committee meetings are scheduled for Wednesday, with the full board convening Thursday. Audio of all public portions will be livestreamed on the board's website.

Tuition proposal

Delaying the discussion nearly five months due to uncertainty over state funding levels, the board will give a first look at a 3.8 percent tuition increase ($284 for the year) for Iowa State resident undergraduates and 4 percent for all others. A proposed 4 percent increase works out to $358 for resident graduates, $852 for nonresident undergraduates, $908 for nonresident graduates, $896 for resident veterinary medicine students (years 1-3) and $1,972 for nonresident veterinary medicine students (years 1-3). The board will vote on tuition increases at its June 7 meeting in Cedar Falls.

The 2019 fiscal year will be the final year of a three-phase, $542 annual tuition differential assessed all international students. Iowa State also will present a three-year plan to align its various differential tuitions into two levels: $1,600 (all students) and $2,612 ($3,026 nonresidents including international) annual differentials when fully implemented. Impacted programs will take from one to three years to get to the new rate. The intent is to assess higher education costs where they are needed rather than spread them across the entire student body.

The first rate will make the tuition differential uniform across the colleges of Human Sciences, Design, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Agriculture and Life Sciences (excluding agriculture systems technology and industrial technology). Not all programs in these three colleges have differential tuition. The second rate will make the tuition differential uniform across the colleges of Engineering and Business and the two CALS programs. Differential tuitions, when applicable, would be applied after 60 credits, except for the College of Design. All Design studio-based majors (undergrad and graduate) would pay the differential except for first-year Core Design students.


Iowa State has forwarded to the board 81 requests for faculty promotion and tenure (see table below). This compares to 52 requests a year ago and 58 for 2016-17. If approved, the promotions become effective for the 2018-19 academic year.

ISU 2018-19 faculty tenure and promotion requests





Promotion with tenure




Promotion (already tenured)




Tenure without promotion








The list of promotions will be posted on the provost's website once the board has voted on the request.

Fourth-quarter budget reversion

The board will vote on how to distribute a $10.9 million funding reduction among regent entities in the current budget year. The board's proposal is 2.4 percent reductions to:

  • Iowa State, $5.4 million
  • University of Iowa, $5.5 million
  • Board office, $19,000
  • Iowa Public Radio, $8,600
  • Regents' three regional study centers (Council Bluffs, Sioux City and Moline, Illinois), $6,700

Language in the reversion bill prevents the board from reducing state funding for the University of Northern Iowa or the regents' K-12 schools serving sight- and hearing-impaired students.

Honorary degrees

Iowa State proposes to award an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Dwight Ink, holder of the first government degree (1947) from Iowa State, federal civil servant and adviser to seven U.S. presidents (Eisenhower to Reagan); and an honorary Doctor of Science to Jon Kinzenbaw, inventor, entrepreneur and CEO of Kinze Manufacturing, Williamsburg; at spring commencement. Iowa State proposes to award an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to alumnus Theaster Gates, artist and professor of visual arts at the University of Chicago, at next fall's commencement.

The board also is scheduled to elect a president and president pro-tem, and approve residence, dining and parking permit rates for next year. Additionally, faculty and staff representatives from all the regent schools will provide input on salary policies for the budget year that begins July 1. Salary increase proposals typically are on the board's June agenda.

More ISU requests

In other business, Iowa State will seek board permission to:

  • Sell 68 acres of farmland immediately south of the ISU Research Park core facility to the park as part of its phase 3 development. Iowa State purchased the land about a year ago for $2.1 million; the research park would reimburse the university this same amount (determined from a December 2016 appraisal) as parcels are sold to future tenants.
  • Add several names to the new poultry farm on South State Avenue. The farm would be named for Robert Hamilton (deceased), formerly of rural Iowa Falls, whose spouse provided a lead gift of $3 million for the $5 million facility. The Hamiltons were successful poultry and hog farmers. The farm's layer hen facility would be named for the Iowa Egg Council, Urbandale, in recognition of a $1.5 million gift. The genetics research building would be named for Hy-Line North America, West Des Moines, in recognition of a $500,000 gift. Hy-Line is a genetics company that raises and sells laying chickens.
  • Increase the budget $500,000, to $2.9 million, and accept a revised description of a stand-alone dynamometer facility for farm vehicles at the Ag Engineering and Agronomy Farm, located south of U.S. Highway 30 west of Ames. Initially, this was planned for Sukup Hall. The increase is due to higher than expected dynamometer costs in vendor proposals. The dynamometer will be one of a few in the world capable of testing the engine force and torque on large tractors, combines and off-road vehicles.

Iowa State will make these requests to the board's academic and student affairs committee, with full board approval scheduled for June:

  • End the master of science in landscape architecture degree, due to low enrollment and student interest. It is research-based and requires a thesis. The department will continue its masters in landscape architecture (MLA), considered a terminal degree.
  • Add four degree programs: a cross-disciplinary Ph.D. in populations sciences in animal health, department of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine; M.S. in real estate development, colleges of Business and Design; B.S. program in actuarial science, Ivy College of Business; and B.S. in data science, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


Weekly 'tea' makes for math mixer


The weekly undergraduate math tea gives students in the department a regular chance to socialize. At the March 22 tea was, from left, Samson Baker, Lance Cordts and Brandon Tague. Photo by Joseph Kastner.

To Steve Butler, math's bad rap doesn't add up. He thinks of math more as recognizing patterns and solving problems than a computational crush of figures and formulas. But there's a widespread notion that it is something to endure, not embrace.

"It's OK in society to say 'I hate math.' But you'd never say 'I hate reading.' There's a social stigma attached to that. It's unfortunate that the opposite is true for math, that there's a social stigma to loving math," said Butler, an associate professor who holds the Barbara J. Janson Professorship in Mathematics.

But even a math-is-misunderstood advocate such as Butler -- who has taught a class on the mathematics of juggling and explained the calculations behind card tricks to crowds at the state fair -- concedes one math trope is at least a little bit true.

"I think there is a tendency for people in math to be slightly on the introvert side," he said.

Overcoming that inclination -- helping math students meet and support each other -- is the main benefit of the math department's weekly undergraduate tea, a mixer for socializing with graduate students and faculty. Why tea? It's a reference to the historical tradition of mathematicians mingling at a regular tea time. The ISU spread is just soda and snacks.

"We do now have a hot water dispenser so we can actually make tea, should someone request it," Butler said.

The weekly teas started in 2012 after Butler was hired in a position that includes undergraduate engagement as a portion of the appointment. While a departmental tea is a math tradition, it took time for it to catch on here, Butler said. Just one student showed up the first week. But Butler kept putting out food and encouraging especially social students to spread the word.

The practice slowly became more popular. Now, the student lounge where the teas are held -- a room on Carver Hall's fourth floor that years ago was the department's office -- is pretty near capacity on Thursdays from 3 to 4 p.m.

"This took years to get where we are," Butler said.

About two dozen showed up last week, munching on chips and casually chatting. Many knew each other well. One of the regulars is sophomore Brandon Tague, who was clad as he often is in a sweatshirt adorned with numbers and notations. He said the teas are a time to talk about homework or informally help out other students. There's also math-free conversation -- about TV shows and other classes, for instance.

"Usually it's math, though," he said. "I just like being able to talk to people about math."

Graduate students Kate Lorenzen and Nate Harding said they see it as a way to get away from the daily grind to talk about funny moments from classes they teach or the latest political news.

"It's very easy to isolate yourself when you're doing math research," Lorenzen said.

Butler said the teas are one of several ways the department is trying to build connections with undergraduates. There's also a weekly newsletter specifically for undergraduates and a variety of math clubs.

"It's lot of simple things. The key is consistency and patience," Butler said.

Though the impact might be difficult to measure, Butler believes the community-building pays off in the classroom.

"The truth, I think, is that mathematics is a very social activity. It's important for people to talk to each other and to get to know each other. It helps," he said.


Faculty resignations in FY17 hit 10-year high

Faculty resignations trended higher in fiscal year 2017, according to an annual report provided this month to the state Board of Regents.

Forty-four tenured and tenure-track Iowa State faculty resigned in 2016-17, up from 24 the year before, Brenda Behling told the Professional and Scientific Council at its April 4 meeting. According to the report, it was the most faculty resignations in one year since 44 resigned in 2008.

More of the resignations than usual were from faculty who held full professor rank, said Behling, director of academic policy and personnel in the provost's office. That suggests they're being recruited away by other institutions, she said. Thirteen who resigned in FY17 were full professors, the most since 15 full professors resigned in 2007.

"The important thing is that we monitor this," Behling said.

The report noted the rate of faculty resignations compared to overall faculty numbers (3.2 percent) still fell well within the typical range for regent universities of 1 to 4 percent. Though neither Iowa nor Northern Iowa saw a large spike in the number of resignations in FY17, 3.1 percent of faculty at both institutions resigned during the year. 

Why they left 

Twenty-three (of 40 faculty invited) responded to a voluntary exit survey, with 65 percent saying they left for a better opportunity. Forty-three percent were dissatisfied with the environment in their department, and 30 percent were dissatisfied with the environment in their college. Another 30 percent said either location or the lack of accommodation for their spouse or partner played a role. Seventy percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied in general with the position they were leaving.

Only five faculty, 22 percent of respondents, cited salary competitiveness as a reason for resigning, though 44 percent said their new position would pay "much higher."

Regent universities don't provide the board an annual report with similar information on staff but, responding to a question from a council member, university human resources benefits director Ed Holland said he would research resignation rates among staff.

Faculty resignations usually don't lead to the elimination of P&S positions, Behling said. She told the council she can only recall one situation in the past five years when that happened.  


Five things to know about our learning communities

Female students fill plastic bags with hygiene products

Katie Vande Wall (center), event management major and member of this year's Directions learning community, fills a hygiene kit with soap, shampoo, toothpaste and brush, washcloth and razor during a November session. Directions, for first-year event management or hospitality management majors, has partnered for several years with Orlando-based Clean the World to recycle hygiene products from hotels and resorts. In November, the 50 members of the learning community filled more than 450 kits as a service project and delivered them to five central Iowa agencies serving homeless and low-income Iowans. Photo by Ryan Riley, Human Sciences Communications.

During a decade of surging enrollment, Iowa State's learning communities program more than kept pace to create spaces for the students who wanted to participate. Last fall, 77 percent of the freshman class -- 4,588 students -- joined a learning community, up from a 69 percent first-year participation rate in 2012 and 55 percent in 2007. For freshman students of color, membership was even higher: 83 percent.

In its 23rd year, the learning communities program is serving a total of 6,055 students -- including 1,467 returning students -- in 90 programs. Despite the higher participation numbers in recent years, learning communities continue to retain freshmen for their sophomore year at rates 5-6 percentage points higher than retention rates for first-year students not in learning communities.

Here are five more things you should know about the learning communities (LC) program:

New leadership

Jen Leptien (LEP-teen) was appointed director of learning communities in January, after holding the interim post since former director Doug Gruenewald's retirement in August 2016. Leptien served as program coordinator for learning communities for the previous 12 years. She earned bachelor's (child and family services), master's (gerontology) and doctoral degrees (human development and family studies), all from Iowa State.

Quality persists on larger scale

When Iowa State lands on a "best learning community programs" list, typically it's in a minority group of large universities commended. For example, of the 18 "stellar" LC programs noted last fall by U.S. News and World Report, eight were at schools with enrollments between 3,500 and 12,000 students. Seven --including giants such as Ohio State and Michigan State -- have larger enrollments than Iowa State.

"Iowa State learning communities are a great example of a committed partnership between academic affairs and student affairs. It's one of the reasons a program as large as ours can flourish." Leptien said. "All of the faculty, staff and peer mentors involved with the program are dedicated to student success."

The Cyclone way

At its January institute for LC coordinators, Leptien introduced discussion about Iowa State's six Principles of Community and options for sharing them with both peer mentors and LC members. Last August's peer mentor training intentionally included the principles, too.

"We have the ability to help shape the community and to encourage students to live 'the Cyclone way,'" Leptien said. She has asked LC coordinators -- faculty and staff members who oversee and guide a learning community -- to include practices and outcomes of the principles in their year-end reports.

Focus on international students

Iowa State's decade of enrollment growth saw international student numbers almost double, from 2,244 in fall 2007 to 4,131 in fall 2016. Transitioning to college life presents additional challenges for this student group: They're acclimating to a new country, they typically didn't make a campus visit or attend summer orientation, so they register for classes late after many learning communities have filled. To address this, the LC program bought a quarter-time appointment for Suzanne Härle, academic adviser in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Two of her strategies have been to develop additional options within the LC program and collaborate more with registrar staff and LC coordinators to place international students in learning communities.

In fall 2015, just 32 percent of first-year international students participated in a learning community. By last fall, that had jumped to 53 percent. And two of the four new options being added this fall will target international students. They include a leadership learning community for sophomore and transfer students in the LAS college and a crosscultural learning community for international transfer students in the Ivy College of Business. Half of the members on both teams will be U.S. residents.

Additional aid for peer mentors

At his retirement, colleagues and peers of Gruenewald launched a scholarship for undergraduate peer mentors. Each year, some 600 returning students provide essential leadership to LC teams of 12-20 undergraduates. These $500 awards are in addition to the wage or stipend they earn from their learning community's home department. So far, eight peer mentors have used the need-based Gruenewald scholarship to help keep their own educations on track to graduation.

"The scholarship honors Doug's great work to develop the peer mentor program, which really is the bedrock to the success of our learning communities," Leptien said. "It's also a way to do something positive for students with financial need."


Events celebrate First Amendment freedoms

First Amendment freedoms

  • Religion
  • Speech
  • Press
  • Assembly
  • Petition

In its 16th year, First Amendment Days has a packed schedule April 11-13. The events, organized by the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, celebrate the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. All events are free and open to the public.

The three-day celebration kicks off with a series of five "Depth and Dialogue" facilitated talks on Wednesday, April 11. John Whyte, constitutional law scholar and professor emeritus from Canada's University of Regina and Queen's University, will close out the day's events with his lecture, "Is Democracy Dying?" (7 p.m., Alliant Energy-Lee Liu Auditorium, Howe Hall).

Interactive events on central campus -- including a hashtag mosaic, "Democalypse" march, displays and demonstrations -- are among Thursday's activities. Greenlee School alum Paul Kix, now an author and deputy editor of ESPN The Magazine, will deliver the keynote lecture, "Talk is Cheap. Free Speech Isn't: Why the First Amendment is Worth It" (8 p.m., Benton Auditorium, Scheman Building).

The celebration wraps up on Friday with an awards presentation and a daylong workshop "designed to train campus and community leaders as First Amendment activists."

Inspired art

University Museums joined the celebration with an exhibit and series of April events related to the First Amendment. Through April 27, the "First Amendment" exhibit is on display in Morrill Hall's ReACT Gallery. It pairs works of fine art with labels -- interpretations and opinions of the First Amendment -- written in advance by students and scholars, and left behind by gallery visitors. The ReACT Gallery encourages interaction and engagement with its exhibits.

A pair of artmaking sessions also are planned on April 13, led by Ally Karsyn, arts producer for Siouxland Public Media, Sioux City. The ReACT Gallery will host a performance of "Out of the Fire: The Banned Books Monologues" on April 23, coinciding with a display of work inspired by free speech and created as part of an integrated studio arts class, "Collage, Assemblage and the Found Object" (ArtIS 305/505). The student exhibit also will be on display through April 27.

First Amendment Days Schedule

Wednesday, April 11

  • 9 a.m., "Depth and Dialogue: Freedom and Respect," moderator John Whyte, University of Regina and Queen's University, Canada; and panelists Michael Norton, university counsel; Jonathan Sturm, Faculty Senate president; and Daniela Flores, graduate student in ecology, evolution and organismal biology, and president of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (169 Hamilton)
  • 10 a.m., "Depth and Dialogue: Thinking Like a Journalist," Emily Barske, Iowa State Daily, and Erin Jordan, Cedar Rapids Gazette (172 Hamilton)
  • 12:10 p.m., "Depth and Dialogue: Speaking Up About Workplace Harassment," Kirsten Anderson, former Iowa GOP Senate staffer (163 Hamilton)
  • 1:10 p.m., "Depth and Dialogue: #metoo at ISU," Margo Foreman, equal opportunity office (172 Hamilton)
  • 2:10 p.m., "Depth and Dialogue: Shedding Light on Mental Illness," panelists Kathie Obradovich, Des Moines Register columnist and Greenlee lecturer; and Scott Moss, senior in finance and organizer of ISU's "Out of the Darkness" suicide prevention awareness walk (172 Hamilton)
  • 7 p.m., Lecture, "Is Democracy Dying?" John Whyte, University of Regina and Queen's University, Canada (Howe auditorium)

Thursday, April 12

  • 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Hashtag mosaic and photo booth, contribute to the mosaic art by using #isufirst on Instagram and Twitter posts (central campus)
  • 9:30 a.m., Democalypse March, experience life without the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (meet on Curtiss steps)
  • 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Feast on the First, Jimmy John's sandwiches, activities and demonstrations highlighting First Amendment freedoms (central campus)
  • 2-4 p.m., Hashtag mosaic unveiling, souvenir prints and Insomnia cookies (central campus)
  • 8 p.m., Lecture, "Talk is Cheap. Free Speech Isn't: Why the First Amendment is Worth It," Paul Kix, aESPN The Magazine (Scheman auditorium)

Friday, April 13

  • 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., First Amendment Workshop, with instructors Gene Policinski, Newseum Institute; Andrea Frantz, Buena Vista University and Society of Collegiate Journalists; Mark Witherspoon, Iowa State Daily; and Julie Roosa, Greenlee School (Iowa State Daily, 2420 Lincoln Way), registration required
  • 9 a.m., Awards presentation, Greenlee School and Kappa Tau Alpha Diversity and Inclusion Award winners Ally Karsyn, Siouxland Public Media; and Emily Blobaum, senior in journalism and mass communication, and Iowa State Daily managing editor of content (169 Hamilton)
  • 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Artmaking, free expression art sessions led by Ally Karsyn, Siouxland Public Media (172 Hamilton and Morrill Hall ReACT Gallery, respectively)